Coronavirus: Pogacar sheds light on UAE quarantine

UAE Tour 2020 2nd Edition 5th stage Al Ain Jebel Hafeet 162 km 27022020 Tadej Pogacar SLO UAE Team Emirates photo Dario BelingheriBettiniPhoto2020
Pogačar on the podium at the UAE Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tadej Pogačar has taken to his personal website to describe the ongoing quarantine he and his UAE Team Emirates teammates are being held under in the UAE. The 21-year-old has been held in a hotel along with fellow riders and staff since the end of the UAE Tour on February 27.

The team had initially voluntarily stayed behind in the country as a precautionary measure after two members of the race entourage tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Though not confirmed, UAE Team Emirates staff members were thought to have been the two positives, while team sprinter Fernando Gaviria was later suspected of being among four riders at the race to have caught the virus.

Pogačar, who won what turned out to be the race's final stage on Jebel Hafeet, wrote of the confusing situation endured in the early days of the outbreak, where all teams at the race were stuck in the hotel. After several days of testing, most were allowed to leave, with Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ, Gazprom-RusVelo and UAE Team Emirates remaining in lockdown.

"Today, March 9, 2020 is the 11th day that I remain locked in 'my' hotel room. It’s not really mine alone, as I share it with teammate Erik Bystrøm," Pogačar wrote. "Who would have thought that things would get so complicated? Nobody. Well, let’s go step by step, because the purpose and goal of all this was a stage race across the UAE.

"After the presentation of [stage 5] awards, we were transferred to the hotel in Abu Dhabi, and there, in the night things started to happen. They found two members of the caravan who fell ill and tested positive for coronavirus.

"This meant that the last two stages were cancelled in the morning. We remained locked at the hotel and were not allowed to leave our rooms until things would calm down and until all at the hotel would be tested for the virus.

"We had no real information and received notifications only scarcely. On Friday we remained at our rooms instead of riding at the sixth level stage, and samples were taken during the day."

Pogačar and his roommate tested negative for the virus twice, but with six more people at the race testing positive, a 14-day quarantine was agreed.

Tuesday marks the 11th day Pogačar remains confined to his hotel room, though he admitted that conditions at the hotel make the isolation somewhat easier.

"Today is the eleventh day I am 'locked' in a hotel room," he wrote. "We are at the first floor of the Yas Marina Hotel, and fortunately this is a hotel of a higher category, so the rooms are a bit more spacious. The room has a quite large balcony too, so this makes the life a little easier at least from this aspect.

"The hotel is looking after us well, the food is excellent, they only bring it in plastic, ring and leave it in front of the door; we return the empty packaging to the cart or tray in the corridor and they pick it up.

"We got training machines at our room, so we try to train at least a little. Of course, there is a TV, internet, Netflix and Playstation, so we can at least do something and pass the time.

"I only hope that things will go as planned and I will be able to go home at the end of next week."

Pogačar, who finished second overall at the race, stopped short of prognostications about what will become of the European spring racing season, which has already been affected by the virus, with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo among races to have been cancelled so far.

"It is hard to say what will happen to the racing – as you can see, matters change from one day to another or from one hour to the other – at the moment to the worse, as races are cancelled, and teams like ours are also giving up competitions for some time. I just hope things will stabilise as soon as possible and slowly return to normal.

"Ah, and about the race … It concluded with the fifth stage and my victory! Overall, I was second, which is excellent, I am more than happy."

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